Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bailey and Lynch Earn Pro Bowl Nods

By Andrew Mason and Mike Sarro,
When Denver added Champ Bailey and John Lynch to the roster last March, the club knew it was adding two quality players.

Nine months later, they're the Broncos' only Pro Bowlers.

Bailey and Lynch were both selected to the AFC All-Star roster for the Pro Bowl on Wednesday, marking the fifth and sixth selections for each defensive back, respectively.

As a member of the Washington Redskins, Bailey made the trip to Hawaii after each of the past four seasons. But making it a fifth consecutive trip didn't weigh heavily on his mind in the day prior to the selection announcement.

"I just want to win," he said. "We've got to get in these playoffs. Forget the Pro Bowl. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

His head coach vouched for his case.

"I'll be honest with you, of course I do (think Bailey deserves to go)," Mike Shanahan said. "He's one of the best corners in the league, if not the best. But that's neither here nor there."

For Lynch, the selection marks a return to the islands for Lynch, who missed last year's game after qualifying after the 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Denver has had a defensive player named to the Pro Bowl every year since 1989. But the Broncos' offense was shut out. Unless any players are added as alternates in the next seven weeks, the Broncos will be without an offensive Pro Bowler for the second time in three years after having at least one offensive player selected for each of the previous 13 Pro Bowls.

Linebacker Al Wilson and center Tom Nalen were passed over after earning nods following last season. Wilson was added as an alternate on Jan. 22 after being passed over in the primary selection, giving him a streak of three consecutive Pro Bowls. Nalen's selection last year was his fourth in the previous seven years.

At the conclusion of the fan voting on Dec. 17, Bailey and Lynch led their respective positions (cornerback and free safety, specifically) in the voting. Bailey received 263,863 votes -- fifth-best among all defensive players -- while Lynch garnered 119,680. The total fan vote counts as one-third of the Pro Bowl ballot tally. One-third of the vote comes from the players, and the other third from NFL coaches. Players and coaches cast their ballots over the weekend.

You can catch the announcement of both the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters this evening at 5 p.m. (MST) on the 2005 Pro Bowl Selection Show on ESPN. The game will be played in Hawaii on Sunday, Feb. 13 and televised by ESPN at 5:30 p.m. (MST).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Pryce Looks to Take Next Step

By Andrew Mason,
Among the Broncos and their followers, there seems to be unanimity on one subject -- that defensive lineman Trevor Pryce can make the defense at least a little bit better whenever he returns to action.

But try telling that to Pryce himself.

"I think a lot of y'all set me up for failure because I'm going to come back and really I'm not going to make any difference," Pryce said. "I think the guys playing my position are doing a great job. I mean, look what they've done without me. They're the fifth-ranked defense in the league, and I'm not playing. So what do you think I'm going to do?"

At the very least, he can provide the Broncos another contributor in the team's defensive-line rotation. And while he has been listed as "out" on every injury report for well over two months, there is a possibility he might be upgraded to "doubtful" when the first injury report of this week is issued Wednesday.

"Yes, there is a chance," he said. "I think I'll know something Wednesday. I have to practice again, you know what I mean?

"So when I practice again Wednesday, they'll know a little more, because I practice and they watch the film. I guess when they saw Wednesday's practice (last week), they said, 'Oh yeah, he's out.'"

Pryce hasn't played since the Broncos last faced Kansas City on Sept. 12, when he slogged his way through 40 plays while battling the lower back pain that would eventually necessitate disc surgery.

A return in time for the rematch this Sunday could be possible, but might not be prudent, at least from Pryce's perspective.

"I don't think it's a good idea," he said. "But if I can keep my balance and run, I'll play. It was good for me to get back on the field, even if I might not play."

But when he practiced on the scout team for three days leading up to last Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins, his balance improved from day to day.

"It was actually pretty encouraging for me because the first day (Wednesday, Dec. 8), I really couldn't keep my balance at all," he said. "The second day (Thursday, Dec. 9), I couldn't keep my balance on some plays. The third day (Friday, Dec. 10), I had some balance, I just couldn't run fast. So hopefully Wednesday I'll run a little bit more and just put everything together."

The issue is working into football shape. Pryce has been no stranger to strength and conditioning workouts since recovering from the late-September procedure on his back.

But getting in condition to actually play involves far more than that.

"When I first got in my stance, I was like, 'My stomach is touching my knees; this is not right.' You know, one of those things," Pryce said. "The balance improved because I had to get used to playing football again.

"When people say, 'You have to get in football shape,' that's very real. You can be fast and healthy and in great shape running sprints, but until you play football or basketball or tennis or whatever you do, you're not in shape. The only way you get in football shape is by playing football, period. End of story."